articlesqa August 01, 2015 community through exile
Ifeoluwapo Eleyinafe Article by Ifeoluwapo EleyinafeCreator and author of thinkheaven.com

So far we have spo­ken about how a Chris­t­ian makes God his Wall by pur­su­ing a re­la­tion­ship with Him. This re­la­tion­ship re-de­fines the Chris­t­ian’s iden­ti­ty and forces her into war against her­self. Now we will dis­uss the sec­ond thing that im­me­di­ate­ly hap­pens when God be­comes the wall: sep­a­ra­tion from the world.

The Hon­ey­moon...

The truth of this sep­a­ra­tion is re­flect­ed in the iso­la­tion of John the great­est prophet Matt 3:1-4, the apos­tle Paul Gal 1:15-18 and our Lord Je­sus Christ Matt 4:1-2. In these in­stances, they left to go on what es­sen­tial­ly was a hon­ey­moon. They had just joined them­selves to God and they with­drew from the world to es­tab­lish their iden­ti­ty in Him and His place in them. Very of­ten this re­quires a phys­i­cal sep­a­ra­tion. Not nec­es­sar­i­ly go­ing off into the desert. For me, for ex­am­ple, it in­volved a ridicu­lous­ly strong de­sire to wake up at odd hours of the day just to read the Bible. In this time of sep­a­ra­tion, a Chris­t­ian finds out how God sees her and His vi­sion of her. It is this sep­a­ra­tion that af­firms iden­ti­ty in Christ.

... Is Over

Af­ter the hon­ey­moon comes the re­turn to the world full of pas­sion to­wards God, His Rule and His Love. We ex­pect every­one to be ex­cit­ed as we are. What do we find in­stead? Well John the Bap­tist found prison and death at the hands of a teenage girl Matthew 14:8-11. Paul found per­se­cu­tion, ship­wrecks, prison, beat­ings and even­tu­al­ly death 2 Cor 11:23-28. When Je­sus came to his home­town, af­ter 40 days in the wilder­ness, his town tried to throw Him from a cliff Luke 4:22-30. Of course, the Jews(the re­li­gious) and the Ro­mans(me and you) fi­nal­ly suc­ceed­ed in killing Him on the cross Matt 27:22-27. All through out his­to­ry, the world could not tol­er­ate these men and women who sac­ri­ficed all to pro­claim the love of God Heb 11:36-38.

You see, when I make God my wall through an ex­clu­sive re­la­tion­ship with Him, I am not just sep­a­rat­ed from the world. That would be mild and al­most pas­sive. No you can see that in the lives of all saints, there is a vi­o­lent re­jec­tion by the world of any­one who makes a de­ci­sion to make God their ruler. Our so­ci­eties and com­mu­ni­ties ul­ti­mate­ly will not tol­er­ate men and women who refuse to build their walls and bound­aries with the brick of idol­a­try and the mor­tar of self. That we should de­clare that all are wicked and God who is Right­eous gave His Son to save us is the most dan­ger­ous truth ever spo­ken and es­sen­tial­ly signs our death war­rant. Even now when “every­one” is a Chris­t­ian, this death from the world is still present and takes on dif­fer­ent, more in­sid­i­ous forms. Yet ex­ile is still ex­ile and death is still the same old vi­cious death.

Re­pelled

And so we are kicked out, pushed out, per­se­cut­ed and even phys­i­cal­ly killed. We are pressed but not crushed, per­se­cut­ed but not aban­doned, struck down but not de­stroyed 2 Cor 4:8-10. And why is this? Why does the at­tack not suc­ceed in de­stroy­ing us? By de­struc­tion, I do not mean a sim­ple death. I mean, why do these at­tacks not suc­ceed in dis­solv­ing our re­la­tion­ship with God? Hus­bands and wives, friends and fam­i­lies, di­vorce all the time in this day and age be­cause of var­i­ous strains on their re­la­tion­ship. We are con­stant­ly bad­gered be­cause we are re­lat­ing with God from the in­side and the out­side. Why then do we per­sist in what ap­pears to be an un­healthy re­la­tion­ship?

Very sim­ple, our wall is strong. It is not for noth­ing that the Psalmist con­stant­ly refers to God as a shield and fortress Psalms 18:2, 91:2. Of what need is there for a shield and fortress if there is no war!!! There­fore, our wall which is our re­la­tion­ship with God is im­pen­e­tra­ble Ro­mans 8:35. It is very sim­ple. He’s too Beau­ti­ful, too Awe­some, and too Ma­jes­tic. He is Ir­re­sistible (See: The Fear of God). We don’t want to leave Him. He is worth all the strife and trou­ble. We are just in love with Him. Our joy in His Pres­ence gives us strength to abide and per­sist in abid­ing Neh 8:10. We are not de­stroyed. We per­sist and per­se­vere in re­lat­ing to God.

But Un­moved

How­ev­er, the world forces us away and would even force us out of the world com­plete­ly. To se­clude our­selves in a monastery, nun­nery or church build­ing then is to give up and al­low the world vic­to­ry. Seclu­sion is not ex­ile. Ex­ile comes when we are ac­tive­ly re­pelled by the world. We can­not be re­pelled by the world when we have tak­en our­selves out of it. Je­sus com­mands us to re­main in the world even though we are clear­ly not of it John 17:14-16.

There­fore, He­brews en­cour­ages us to go out of the camp and join Je­sus in His Ex­ile Heb 13:13 from the world and fol­low Him as He re-en­ters the world through the gate of ex­ile. For this rea­son, it is dif­fi­cult for a rich man (any­one whose con­nec­tion to the world is deep­er than their con­nec­tion to God) to en­ter the King­dom of Heav­en. The gate of ex­ile is nar­row­er than the eye of the nee­dle. Only the ex­ile, di­vest­ed of her at­tach­ments, may pass through.

Com­mu­ni­ty Through Ex­ile

This ex­ile is pal­pa­ble. The lone­li­ness and wan­der­ing is thick at all times. Some­times, it seems to have more sub­stance than faith. Where is the broth­er? Where is the sis­ter? Our in­sides are un­fa­mil­iar since we have giv­en up our old iden­ti­ty. The world around us re­jects us. So then where is our iden­ti­ty to be found. Where shall we be ground­ed again?

In What it means to be a Chris­t­ian, we ex­plaind that a Chris­t­ian is any­one that ex­ists in com­mu­ni­ty with God, Je­sus and the Holy Spir­it. God is a Fa­ther to the fa­ther­less Psalms 27:10. I can cling to Him when I can­not even cling to my very self. When first look up then from my de­spair, I find that my Com­pa­ny is Holy. God, Je­sus and the Holy Spir­it are al­ready out­side the camp. In fact He comes to find me just like He came to find the healed man who had been kicked out of the syn­a­gogue John 9:34-38.

Now we look around some more and see that all around us are those who have also been dri­ven out into ex­ile be­cause they be­lieved in Je­sus. These are our broth­ers and sis­ters. With these peo­ple we can dis­cuss and com­mis­er­ate. We can weep and re­joice for these broth­ers and sis­ters un­der­stand spir­i­tu­al­ly what it means to “dance, for the joy of sur­viv­ing, on the edge of the road” Ku­nitz, Old Cracked Tune. This com­mu­ni­ty with God, Je­sus, the Holy Spir­it and oth­er be­liev­ers is known as the Church. The Church then is a com­mu­ni­ty of those ex­iled from the world through their re­la­tion­ship with God.

The Church is not a com­mu­ni­ty of those seek­ing to es­tab­lish them­selves in the world. It is a com­mu­ni­ty of those who suf­fer be­cause they seek to es­tab­lish the rule of God in their own lives and are en­cour­ag­ing their neigh­bors to do the same. Now we see that God uses the force that would re­pel us to help cre­ate a new com­mu­ni­ty (the Church) in which our new iden­ti­ties can thrive and grow. Note that the Church is not yet a com­mu­ni­ty of vic­tors and there­fore should not seek to leg­is­late moral­i­ty through cul­ture or law for the sake of her own com­fort.

Through the law, she may seek to cov­er the shame of her neigh­bors but only in love and only for their sake. When she tries to do it for her own com­fort or to “hur­ry along” the King­dom of God, she has left her ex­ile and needs to re­pent. She is the Church and she re­mains whole through the force the world is try­ing to use to erad­i­cate her. She should right­ly ap­pear to the world as a col­lec­tion of the os­tra­cized. It is not her job to be dressed up and gaudy in ap­pear­ance. Her job is to find her­self in her Lord. She is to be as naked and bloody as her Lord, the Truth, Je­sus Christ of Nazareth.

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“Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.” - Colossians 2:3

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